It’s National Children’s Day UK on 17th May 2020, and this year the theme for the event is The Children’s Voice. To celebrate the day, children from across the world are invited to share their thoughts and feelings about what they have learnt in 2020.

Children’s Day was established by the United Nations in 1954 as a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children, and countries throughout the world have adopted it since. It wasn’t until 2014 that the UK began marking the day,  as Wendy Ellyatt, founder and Chief Executive of the Save Childhood Movement established National Children’s Day as a platform for raising awareness about child rights and wellbeing. Wendy is a specialist in early learning and has devoted her career to preserving the wellbeing of children and bringing out their potential and creativity. Besides founding National Children’s Day, she set up the Save Childhood Movement, created The Flourish Project and co-chairs the Global Council for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance.

Wendy joined us on Monday 11 May’s Talking Montessori Webinar, where we spoke about her journey from training as a Montessorian to becoming an empowered campaigner for children’s voices. Here, she shares her thoughts on…

What we can learn from children

Children are our hope for the future. The environments and social worlds that they experience literally shape who they will become. Every child is born brimming with possibility and potential and it is up to the adults in their worlds to ensure that they can grow up to become happy, healthy and fulfilled adults. Children show us when we are getting this right, but more importantly, when we are getting it wrong.

What children bring to our world

What children bring to the world is the possibility of change. If we can prioritise the health and wellbeing of children and families and can better understand what optimises early human development, we can work together to create a more caring and compassionate world. As Malaguzzi said, “Our task, regarding creativity, is to help children climb their own mountains, as high as possible”, but all too often, we confine them to low hills and valleys.

Why National Children’s Day UK is an important celebration

In 2013 we were one of the few countries still not to have a day (!) and we therefore established National Children’s Day UK, launching it in 2014, (NCDUK) to start raising awareness about children’s rights and to celebrate all the fantastic work that was going on nationwide to promote the wellbeing of children and families. We thought that children in the UK should be able to get outside on Children’s Day, into their neighbourhoods and nature, so we chose to hold it at the beginning of the summer.

It’s a very important event, as it not only highlights the great work that is going on, but also provides a platform to raise awareness about some of the things that we are all worried about such as child poverty and mental health. Up until now the UK has had a very poor record for prioritising the health and wellbeing of children and families and we wanted the day to help shine a light on that fact.

Her hopes for National Children’s Day UK 2020

2020 is obviously going to be a very strange year for us, as nobody is now able to run the activities and events that they had planned – and even families cannot be together.

We have therefore created the ‘Small Steps, Big Learnings’ initiative that encourages children to start sharing their own thoughts and ideas about the world i.e. what they have learnt and what they would like to change – this can be through drawings, blog posts, poetry, songs, dances, videos etc – and we will be gathering them all onto the Children’s Voice site, that will then continue after the day.

Our hope is that this will draw people’s attention to the extraordinary wisdom of children, and the fact that we are not giving them enough opportunities to share this with the adult world. We have just been sent the first video submission for this, by an 11- and 9-year-old brother and sister and it is a remarkable example of what is possible if we do not limit children’s horizons.

The child’s voice and listening to what children have to say about themselves, their ideas and the world around them is central to the Montessori pedagogy. In fact, ‘The Voice of the Child’ is the central theme of our upcoming issue of Montessori International Magazine, which will be available to buy online from Sunday 17 May.